Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conflicting sensations

If anyone deserved to be, hmmm, removed from world affairs, it was Osama bin Laden. But I can't help but think about how long it took to get him, and the hundreds of thousands (Americans, Iraqis, and Afghans, in particular) who have been killed for that happen. Still, the world is better without him, and I could be wrong, but I don't think someone will step up to fill his shoes any time soon. People like him don't come along every day.

So it was with a conflicting sense of heartbreak for what and whom we've lost in the last ten years, and an undeniable sense of satisfaction about bin Laden's, ahem, departure, that I drove to work late yesterday afternoon. All the while, I was thinking about another conflicting sensation: the simultaneous entertainment value and embarrassment of Trenton politics, when I ventured upon this on Olden Avenue:

A patriotic tribute on a particularly unloved part of Olden Avenue, just north of the train bridge.

I loved the roadside tributes after the September 11th attacks; I loved that people took the time to make them. I loved that here in New Jersey, for days after the attacks, people with flags and candles stood along the roads and highways to just...I don't know...be together? I put a little flag in the back window of my truck 10 years ago because I couldn't figure out how — and perhaps I wasn't bold enough — to fly a big flag in its bed. But I loved the big flag flyin' truck drivers — and the motorcycle guys with the flags flapping behind them — most of all in 2001.

I lived in a different part of the state at that time. Now I'm in Trenton, and I'm faced with far more ignorance and stupidity than I've ever dealt with in my life — from the self-inflicted variety of the local knuckleheadery, to the look-up-the-word-idiot-in-the-dictionary-and-see-a-picture-of-our-current-mayor variety, to those in the suburbs who think it's a great idea to just burn the whole city down.

I can't quite bring myself to feel the elation of the artist behind this tribute, but it touches me. It just takes a few to tarnish the reputation of an entire group, and most people in the city — including those who are downtrodden, forgotten, and impoverished — hold true the same values as those on the outside.